By Teri Hunkin
Each year at this time, just before the holidays, American Samoa’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has its annual advisory board meeting, and according to the Center’s director, Herbert Thweatt, it is a time set aside to celebrate the many accomplishments of their clients, who SBDC has helped to fulfill the goal — and dream — of starting their own business.
In keeping with that tradition, on Friday, November 8, SBDC held their annual meeting, which included a luncheon and awards ceremony at the Tradewinds Hotel.
Included at the event were the staff and counselors of SBDC, which is located on the upper campus of American Samoa Community College, as it is these counselors who work one on one with clients to help them map out and achieve their business goals. There is no time limit to SBDC’s work, and many of their clients have been helped over a period of several years, as they begin and then expand their businesses. Clients are not given a time limit for SBDC services explained Thweatt, and many are helped for periods of several years.
During the event, a “Statistical Snap Shot” was given of the work done by SBDC during CY2012. It notes that the Center was able to assist in the start-up of 18 new businesses last year, and generate almost a million dollars in capital infusion. The Center also helped to create 75 jobs while counseling 45 long-term clients in 2012.
In 2013, the Center has assisted (thus far) with 14 business start-ups and created 60 jobs. Additionally, they have counseled 33 Long Term Clients and these efforts have generated more than $230,000 in capital infusion to date.
In his welcome and introduction, Thweatt also noted that SBDC has drafted an Expansion Plan. Partnering locally with ASCC and ASG Department of Commerce under the guidance and assistance of the federal Small Business Administration, the plan includes expanding SBCD services on the island by opening an additional office downtown to serve more clients with professional counseling and training.
The primary goals of the partnership, according to the draft plan, will be “ to develop a strong and informed network of small business entrepreneurs and projects that can be integrated into the American Samoa Government economic development plan.”
SBDC will also provide a “specific mix of resources that will give particular attention to the US Small Business Administration’s priority and special emphasis groups”— including veterans, women, exporters, the disabled and minorities.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism, construction, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and finance and insurance are some of the target industries which should benefit from the partnership program.
According to Thweatt, the SBDC program is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s largest matching grant-funded program, providing quality services to the small business community. The SBDC program has 63 recipient organizations known as Lead Centers—one in each state, with four in Texas and six in California, as well as one each in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa, with corresponding service centers.
The awards and recognitions handed out on Friday included the following, some of whom were recipients of Bank of Hawaii grant awards:
- Tisa Fa’amuli —Tisa’s Barefoot Bar
- Meafatu Ala Jr & Falanai M. Ala — Aniutea Koko
- Dustin & Tumai Snow—Super Star Produce
- Tom Ho Ching & Kalatiola Fritz — Tiola's Creations and Distributors
- Laufai "Rayne" Fanene — Cupcake Kisses by Rayne
Clients who created or expanded new businesses this year included:
- Pulu Ae Ae Jr and Ella Ae-Gurr— “Ae Designz”
- Iosefa & Leuila Ioane— Off Da Rock Tattoos
- Nina Fiamalua and Anthony T. Santos — EPN-Event Planning by Nina
Upon receiving her award, Tisa Fa’amuli said “There’s a new energy on island, and we see it here today. I’m pleased we are able to set an example for others.” In response, Thweatt said, “We appreciate the fact that your hard work has helped to put American Samoa on the map.”
Also recognized and acknowledged for his long and successful business career and his many contributions to the entrepreneurial spirit of the community was Tom Drabble, owner of Sadie’s by the Sea and Sadie’s Inn, as well as Transpac and the former Rubbles Bar and Grill. Thweatt noted that Tom has even kept a historic building alive and flourishing in Sadie’s Inn, and has created numerous jobs for the territory over the years with his successful businesses.
Staff awards went to Elaine Baul for her five years of service, and to June Paogofie-Sitala for being identified as a “state star” in the SBDC network.